I am considering starting an administrative support business. I have been self-employed for 10 years and know about the hard work and research which goes into embarking upon entrepreneurship. I would like to know how the economy has impacted this business. On one hand, I can see businesses downsizing employees and benefiting from hiring administration support without the extra costs of taxes and providing benefits, which is more cost effective to their bottom line. On the other hand, I can also see how some businesses would think hiring a virtual assistant can be another added expense to their bottom line. Any feedback from you would be greatly appreciated —DA
Thanks for the question and I’ll do my best to help shed some light so you can look at this another way.
You see, I always struggle with questions like this (which is why it has taken me this long to answer) because… well, how do I say this… it’s not the right question to ask. Not that you are wrong for asking. I’m here to help. 🙂
So let me try to explain…
The first thing I want to help you get a clearer understanding about is the fact that virtual assistants are not “outsourced help,” replacement staff or contract workers (a contract worker is a legal term for someone who is an employee of a staffing company).
In fact, if you read any of the back posts on my blog, you’ll see that I don’t like the term “virtual assistant” at all as it miseducates clients and industry newcomers alike and sets wrong expectations and perceptions right from the get-go (this is why we use the term Administrative Consultant).
On top of that, when you are running a business, you are not anyone’s assistant any more than, say, an attorney is an assistant to their clients or a coach is an assistant to their clients and so on. Just because you “assist” people, doesn’t make you an assistant. You see?
As someone in this profession, you are providing a skilled professional service, no different than an attorney, an accountant, a bookkeeper, a coach, a designer or what have you.
All of these professions, ours included, requires a high degree of specific skill, experience and expertise. We aren’t replacement workers. As administrative experts, we are providing an expertise—the expertise of administrative support—to businesses that require our particular skills and knowledge.
Once you understand things from that perspective, the question isn’t about how the economy is affecting companies that are downsizing. Those aren’t your clients. Because anyone who is simply looking to replace employees at a cheaper cost is not looking to value the skills or the relationship and is only interested in saving money. If you make those folks your clients, you can bank on always being on a hamster wheel trying to fend off competitors willing to work even cheaper than you.
Which leads me to my next point. You will need to educate yourself about who you are seeking to work with and what their motivation is in hiring you.
When you seek the right clients, the economy has no bearing on anything at all. Because by working with the right people (and you only need a handful of ideal retainer clients to do really well financially in this business), you will be creating your own economy.
You want to focus on a market that truly has a need for the expertise you offer, not the ones whose initial motivation is looking for cheap right from the get-go. So let me walk you through this thought process…
Who is going to truly need and value having an administrative partner? Is it the big company who can afford their own employees or who is only looking to reduce their bottom line? Or is it the solo and boutique companies who run smaller scale operations, often from home offices of their own, that don’t warrant employees or don’t have anywhere to put them even if they wanted them, but who still need the support and understand how it will help them run a more profitable business and make faster progress? Who do you think has the greater need for what we do and will therefore place a higher value on it because it has more meaning to their business success?
This is why the economy has no bearing once you understand who your market is. Those who need and value what you are in business to do will pay because people who want or need something, prize it more highly and place greater importance on paying well for it. Which again, makes the whole question about the economy irrelevant because you are only going to seek a market and ideal clients who need and value the expertise and are able and willing to afford it.
So your task as a new business owner in this profession is to find a target market who a) has the highest need for what you are in business to do, b) can be found easily enough in order to market to them and fill your practice, and c) earns enough money to pay for professional level fees.
Always remember, you can’t afford to work with anyone who can’t afford you (not my quote, but one I love a lot although I’m not sure of its origins).
Hope that helps!